The Mustangs of West Grand are heading to the playoff round for the first time in their three-year history in 8-man football.
By virtue of its 54-6 victory over Pikes Peak Christian this past Saturday afternoon in Kremmling, West Grand finally got past the cross-divisional game that follows the regular season and will face Dove Creek on Saturday, Nov. 3, in Dove Creek.
In high school volleyball action, the Lady Mustangs ended up in a tough bracket in district play and were unable to advance to the regional tournament. West Grand was defeated by Meeker and Paonia in the district tournament and was eliminated from competition.
West Grand scored touchdowns on its first four possessions, utilizing a total of six plays. Pikes Peak was missing three of its top players and it was evident from the beginning of the game that the Mustangs had superior firepower. West Grand had built a 40-point lead before the first half ended and a running clock went into effect early, making it a short afternoon.
Scoring came early and often for the Mustangs on Saturday. Pikes Peak attempted an onside kick to start the game and it was nicely covered by Will Guess. The drive started with an eight-yard run by Leo Pesch and ended one play later on a 42-yard touchdown toss from Nick Ritschard to Kiley O'Brien. The senior tight end caught the ball, made one nifty fake and raced down the sideline for a score. Pesch tacked on the PAT.
On the next drive, Pikes Peak failed to convert a pass on fourth down and the Mustangs had the ball on the Eagle 25-yard line. Ritschard ran it in on the first play from scrimmage, Ritschard passed to Tracy for the PAT and West Grand had a 16-point lead.
The Mustangs quickly forced a Pikes Peak punt and scored again when Ritschard scored from 38 yards. Pesch added the two-point conversion on a run.
It was another three-and-out for Pikes Peak and a quick drive by the Mustangs. Ritschard threw an incomplete pass and then connected with O'Brien on a 55-yard touchdown play. This time, Casey Gore took a handoff and ran untouched into the endzone for the successful PAT and a 32-0 lead for the Mustangs.
The defense for the Eagles tightened up a bit and they forced the Mustangs to punt on two consecutive possessions. However, the West Grand defense was more than up to the challenge of the day as they only allowed one first down in the first half.
In the second quarter, West Grand scored two more times, one on an 11-yard run by Cole Tracy and on a 20-yard scamper by Ritschard. PATs were added by Jeremiah Elliott and Parker Robinson, both of whom scored on running plays. The second score triggered the running clock that would bring the game to a quick conclusion.
In the second half, each team was able to score one time. Tracy directed the junior varsity offense on a long drive of 11-plays that ended when he ran it in from 10 yards. A pass from Tracy was broken up in the endzone and the PAT was unsuccessful when the Eagles broke up a pass thrown by Tracy.
Pikes Peak scored on a 70-yard pass play from Carson Anderson to Josh Parson. The PAT attempt was unsuccessful when Robinson intercepted a pass thrown by Anderson of Pikes Peak.
West Grand was operating on a short field most of the day and that was reflected in the statistics. The Mustangs generated a total of 289 yards, 161 on the ground and 128 in the passing attack. Rtischard was the leading rusher with 83 yards on three carries and three touchdowns. Tracy earned 58 yards on six carries and scored twice. Pesch ran three times for 14 yards and two PATs. In the passing department, Ritschard was four of nine for 128 yards, two touchdowns and one PAT. O'Brien caught two passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns, Gore had one catch for 28 yards and Tracy caught the final pass for a PAT.
On Sunday, a seeding committee met in Denver and placed West Grand ninth in a playoff field of 16 teams. The Mustangs will travel to the far southwestern part of Colorado to face the Dove Creek High School Bulldogs in a game scheduled for a 1 p.m. start. Hayden, the other Western Slope League representative to advance, will travel to the Eastern Plains and square off against Akron.
The West Grand Mustangs finished their season last weekend at the district tournament, hosted in Kremmling. West Grand entered the tournament as a fifth seed with Paonia (top-seed), Meeker (fourth-seed), and SoRoCo (eighth-seed) in pool play.
"We were excited going into the tournament just coming off of a big league win against Meeker the weekend before and having the home court advantage was something we were also looking forward to," Coach Elizabeth Bauer said. "Unfortunately, we did not play our best volleyball as an all-around team and that was needed in order to advance. There were several mental breakdowns and mistakes that in the end were game changers."
After losing a hard-fought match against Meeker, the Mustangs just didn't have the spirit to push past the top-seeded team from Paonia, Bauer said. West Grand, however, ended the season with a little more closure, beating SoRoCo in the last match of pool play.
"It was frustrating knowing that we can play better as a team, but I am proud of the hard work the girls put in day in and day out," Bauer added. "It was a fun year. I am thankful for all the support for our team this year. Go Mustangs."
Advancing from the district tournament for further post-season play were Paonia, Meeker and Vail Mountain.